Episodes
Language isn’t just for communication — it’s fun. For over a hundred years, crosswords have served as entertainment, and even been blamed for society’s ills. Turns out crosswords are serious business. Author and illustrator of Letters to Margaret and crossword enthusiast Hayley Gold takes us into the history and the discussions happening in the world of crosswords — the Crossworld. You can buy Hayley’s book Letters to Margaret at this link: ...
Published 09/13/22
Today, we communicate. But once, we didn’t. What had to happen in our brains to make communication possible? And why don’t other animals do it like we do? We talk to Dr Thom Scott-Phillips about his new work in the social and cognitive origins of communication. And game creator Joshua Blackburn is going to test Daniel’s linguistic prowess with questions from the hottest game on Kickstarter, League of the Lexicon.
Published 08/03/22
Our friends, listeners, and patrons give us so many great stories, news, and words, so for this live episode, we’re having them tell these language stories in their own words. Thanks to PharaohKatt, Lord Mortis, Ariaflame, seejanecricket, Aristemo, O Tim, Ditte, Rodger, and Ben (not the host one).
Published 07/27/22
Everyone’s favourite tabletop grammarian is back! It’s Ellen Jovin, proprietor of the Grammar Table. She dispenses grammar advice around New York City and the world, and now she’s written a book about her grammar adventures. Ellen is the author of Rebel With a Clause, and she joins us for this big episode.  
Published 06/29/22
It’s crude. It’s rude. And it’s a lot of fun. Slang has been with us for as long as people didn’t want others to understand what they were about. But what exactly is it? And has the nature of slang changed in our internet age? Daniel is talking to eminent slang lexicographer Jonathon Green on this episode of Because Language.
Published 06/15/22
How is language like a game of charades? According to a new book, quite a lot. Charades players and language users improvise and work together to create meaning in a situation, and they get better at it as they reuse elements and build up patterns. Drs Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater explain their vision of language to Daniel and Hedvig on this episode of Because Language.  
Published 05/11/22
Linguistics is what we all love, but how do we make it pay? Turns out there are more ways than you might have thought of, and a new book is here to help. Dr Anna Marie Trester joins Daniel for an uplifting and hopeful chat. And how do we make the online experience better for Blind people? Friend of the pod Ellen is here with some do’s and some do-not-do’s.
Published 04/08/22
Anacostia is a rapidly gentrifying suburb in Washington DC, and as Anacostia changes, so does the language. How do the original Black residents use language to establish their cred? What about the language of the new Black gentrifiers? Dr Jessi Grieser has been listening. She’s the author of The Black Side of the River, and she joins Daniel for a chat.
Published 03/04/22
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/47-we-need-to-talk-about-grice/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ Every Linguistics 101 student knows about HP Grice and his famous Maxims. They state that dialogue is usually cooperative — and when it doesn't appear to be, they explain how we manage to work out meaning anyway. But linguists are questioning the applicability and universality of these rules. Is it time for a reappraisal of Grice?...
Published 02/20/22
Daniel Midgley, Ben Ainslie, and Hedvig Skirgård
Published 02/10/22
The Words of the Year are out! And we’re talking about ’em. We’re answering all the questions in our voluminous Mailbag. We have here, there, and where. We also have that and what. Was there ever a hat? Why are we friends with someone? Is the distribution of emoji Zipfian? If you study linguistics — the science of language — are you a STEM major? And Hedvig springs a game on us.
Published 01/29/22
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/44-words-of-the-week-of-the-year-2021/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ Our listeners have voted, and here are all the words! Which were our top Words of the Week? Which were the worst? And what did all the dictionary people pick? We’re joined by our very special guest (and lingopod pal) Dr Lauren Gawne for this very cheugy episode of Because Language.
Published 12/22/21
Episode page: http://becauselanguage.com/43-journal-club-zoomies-on-zoom/ Support the show: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ Our friends and listeners bring us lots of great stories, questions, and words. So for this episode, we've invited them to present them themselves! All patrons have been invited to join us for this live episode, and many have brought pets.
Published 12/17/21
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/42-replicability-crisis/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ The sciences are facing a replicability crisis. Some landmark studies were once considered settled, but then failed when they were retested. So have any linguistic experiments been toppled? And how do we fix this problem? Dr Martine Grice and Dr Bodo Winter have contributed to a special issue of Linguistics, and they join us for this fun...
Published 12/01/21
Here to help us answer our voluminous Mailbag is the tireless Dr Caitlin Green, Vice Cancellor of Caitlin University. Among our questions: NON-BINARY or NONBINARY? What’s behind coffee names? Why is there an L in WOULD? Could swearing get in the way of persuasion? When is it time to stop supporting a minority language? What’s with the D in TIDDIES? Fee fi fo… fun? Why doesn’t it rhyme with ENGLISHMAN? Where does TUCKER come from?
Published 11/16/21
Dialect is a role-playing game about language and how it dies. Over the course of a game, players form an isolated community, create a private language, and watch it fade away as the community’s isolation is breached. We’re very pleased and honoured to play a game of Dialect, with game creator Hakan Seyalıoğlu of Thorny Games leading us through it.
Published 11/15/21
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/39-is-this-a-reference/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ You probably communicate with your friends using media references all the time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But why do we include media references, when we could just talk? We’re having a media-heavy discussion with Dr Sylvia Sierra about her book Millennials Talking Media.
Published 11/01/21
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/38-generativism-2-how-its-going/ Support the show: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ This is the second of a two-parter on generativism, the linguistic school of thought originated by Noam Chomsky. This time, it's from the perspective of early-career researchers. How is generativism relevant to them, and how do they regard its claims?
Published 10/14/21
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/37-generativism-1-how-it-started/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becuselangpod/ We’re doing a deep dive into generativism, the linguistic school of thought championed by Noam Chomsky. What is generativism, and what are its claims? What is the relationship to nativism, the idea that some aspects language are inborn? And what should the next generation of generative linguists keep in mind?
Published 09/30/21
The Because Language team are talking through some of the most interesting research around, and you get to listen! Valuable medical information gets lost when Indigenous languages are wiped out When it comes to learning languages, multilinguals have the edge over bilinguals A generativist argues that languages don't adapt to their environment. What's behind this? And it's iconicity turned up to 11: some experiments that explore how language began.
Published 09/13/21
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/35-somethings-got-to-change/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ Linguistics as a discipline throws up challenges to Indigenous linguists. At the same time, they're the ones called upon to fix it. It can't stay like this. How do we make linguistics a safe place to work? Daniel, Hedvig, and Ayesha Marshall are having a yarn with Lesley Woods and Dr Alice Gaby.
Published 08/27/21
Episode page with show notes: http://becauselanguage.com/34-ozclo-2021-2-cool-4-school/ Support the show on Patreon: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ OzCLO is the Australian Computational and Linguistic Olympiad. It gets students together to compete and solve linguistic problems. It’s also a gateway to further linguistic study. We’ve brought some of the winning students to compete in a linguistic quiz with Ben and Hedvig. Will it go well for them?
Published 08/05/21
All it took was a tweet. Last week, linguists refocused their attention on a paper about humidity and tone. Was it bad linguistics? Environmental determinism? The reaction said a lot about linguistics and the nature of linguistic communication in the digital age.
Published 07/25/21
Episode page: http://becauselanguage.com/32-fallen-leaves-the-chinese-languages/ Support the show: http://patreon.com/join/becauselangpod/ What we call sometimes Chinese is really a gigantic family of languages. They’re somewhat divided in mutual intelligibility, and somewhat united in their writing system. How are they different, and how are they maintaining themselves? Two Chinese researchers, Wu Mei-Shin and Ye Jingting, join us. Also: Israel Lai of the Cantonese podcast Rhapsody in Lingo.
Published 07/18/21